This study was to determine if bone marrow multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) underwent cardiac specification and Oct-4 expression during their cardiomyocyte differentiation in vitro. MAPCs were isolated from rat bone marrow, treated with 5-azacytidine (5-aza, 1 mu M) for 24 h, and cultured in a serum-free medium for cardiac differentiation for up to 35 days. The cells started to express early cardiac-specific genes Nkx2.5 and GATA-4 with a significant increase in their mRNA level within 24 h after 5-aza treatment. Western blotting analysis and immunofluorescence staining revealed that the cardiac-specific proteins connexin-43 and troponin I were expressed in the cells 7 days after 5-aza treatment. Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that over 37% of the cells were positive for troponin I by 35 days of differentiation, although the cells did not display spontaneous contraction. On the other hand, the undifferentiated MAPCs expressed a significant level of the stem-cell-specific marker Oct-4 that was dramatically decreased in the cells shortly after the initiation of cardiomyocyte differentiation as evaluated using real-time (RT)-polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, immunofluorescence staining, and flow cytometry. These data indicated that MAPCs were able to effectively differentiate into cardiomyocyte-like cells after 5-aza induction in association with downregulation of Oct-4 expression.