In Drosophila induction of the homeobox gene tinman and subsequent heart formation are dependent on dpp signaling from overlying ectoderm. In order to define vertebrate heart-inducing signals we screened for dpp-homologues expressed in HH stage 4 chicken embryos. The majority of transcripts were found to be BMP-2 among several other members of the BMP family. From embryonic HH stage 4 onwards cardiogenic mesoderm appeared to be in close contact to BMP-2 expressing cells which initially were present in lateral mesoderm and subsequently after headfold formation in the pharyngeal endoderm. In order to assess the role of BMP-2 for heart formation, gastrulating chick embryos in New culture were implanted with BMP-2 producing cells. BMP-2 implantation resulted in ectopic cardiac mesoderm specification. BMP-2 was able to induce Nkx2-5 expression ectopically within the anterior head domain, while GATA-4 was also induced more caudally. Cardiogenic induction by BMP-2, however remained incomplete, since neither Nkx2-8 nor the cardiac-restricted structural gene VMHC-1 became ectopically induced. BMP-2 expressing cells implanted adjacent to paraxial mesoderm resulted in impaired somite formation and blocked the expression of marker genes, such as paraxis, Pax-3, and the forkhead gene cFKH-1. These results suggest that BMP-2 is part of the complex of cardiogenic signals and is involved in the patterning of early mesoderm similar to the role of dpp in Drosophila.