Cardiomyocytes from common experimental animals rapidly exit the cell cycle upon isolation, impeding studies of basic cell biology and applications such as myocardial repair. Here we examined proliferation of cardiomyocytes derived from human and mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. While mouse ES cell-derived cardiomyocytes showed little proliferation, human cardiomyocytes were highly proliferative under serum-free conditions (15-25% BrdU+/sarcomeric actin+). The cells exhibited only a small serum dose-response, and proliferation gradually slowed with increasing differentiation of the cells. Neither cell density nor different matrix attachment factors affected cardiomyocyte proliferation. Blockade of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) and Akt significantly reduced cardiomyocyte proliferation, whereas MEK inhibition had no effect. Antibody blocking of the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptor significantly inhibited cardiomyocyte proliferation, while addition of IGF-1 or IGF-2 stimulated cardiomyocyte proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, cardiomyocytes derived from human ES cells proliferate extensively in vitro, and their proliferation appears to be mediated primarily via the PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway, using the IGF-1 receptor as one upstream activator. This system should permit identification of regulatory pathways for human cardiomyocyte proliferation and may facilitate expansion of cardiomyocytes from human ES cells for therapeutic purposes.