Congenital heart malformations are the most common of all congenital human birth anomalies. During the past decade, research with zebrafish, chick, and mouse models have elucidated many fundamental genetic pathways that govern early cardiac patterning and differentiation. This review highlights the roles of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway in cardiogenesis and how defective BMP signals can disrupt the intricate steps of cardiac formation and cause congenital heart defects. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.