Abstract In the vertebrate embryo the heart is the first organ to form. Embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues are supposed to contribute to cardiac lineage commitment before and during gastrulation in a paracrine fashion. Evidence has accumulated that factors secreted by the anterior lateral endoderm and extra-embryonic endoderm contribute to cardiomyogenesis. Here we exploit in vitro differentiation of embryonic stem cells in embryoid bodies to study differentiation of the extra-embryonic endodermal lineage, gastrulation-like processes, and the influence of endoderm on cardiomyogenesis. We demonstrate that in embryoid bodies primitive endoderm differentiates to visceral and parietal endoderm and that parietal endoderm influences onset of cardiomyogenesis in a concentration-dependent manner. Both increased concentrations of leukemia inhibitory factor and its absence in lif − / − embryoid bodies hampered parietal endoderm formation. Reduced differentiation of parietal endoderm correlated with an attenuation of cardiomyogenesis even in the presence of LIF. These and previous results suggest that leukemia inhibitory factor is directly and indirectly, via endoderm formation, involved in the regulation of cardiomyogenesis. Increased proliferation of parietal endoderm in lifr − / − embryoid bodies and addition of conditioned lif − / − cell culture supernatant promoted cardiomyogenesis, demonstrating for the first time that parietal endoderm also contributes to cardiomyogenesis in embryoid bodies in a paracrine and leukemia inhibitory factor and its receptor independent pathway. New factors signaling independently of the leukemia inhibitory-factor receptor pathway may sustain cardiomyocyte cell proliferation and thus be a future target for gene therapy of cardiomyopathies and cell therapy of the myocardium.