Improving cardiac differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells is mandatory to provide functional heart muscle cells for novel therapies. Here, we have investigated the enhancing effect of the small molecule SB203580, a p38 MAPK inhibitor, on cardiomyogenesis in hESC by monitoring the phosphorylation patterns of the major MAPK pathway components p38, JNK and ERK by western immunoblotting.A remarkable drop in phosphorylation levels of all three MAPK pathways was induced after overnight embryoid body (EB) formation. Upon further differentiation, phosphorylation dynamics in EBs were specifically altered by distinct inhibitor concentrations. At 5. μM of SB203580, cardiomyogenesis was most efficient and associated with the expected p38 pathway inhibition. In parallel, JNK activation was observed suggesting a regulatory interlink between these pathways in hESC ultimately supporting cardiac differentiation. In contrast, moderately elevated SB203580 concentrations (15-30. μM) resulted in complete disruption of cardiomyogenesis which was associated with prominent inhibition of ERK and further elevated JNK activity.We propose that a tightly-balanced pattern in MAPK phosphorylation is important for early mesoderm and subsequent cardiomyocyte formation. Our data provide novel insights into molecular consequences of small molecule supplementation in hESC differentiation, emphasizing the role of MAPK-signaling. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.