We previously reported that interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) alone does not cause apoptosis of beta-cells, whereas when combined with gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), it exerts a distinct apoptotic effect. Studies in beta-cell lines indicated that IL-1beta reduced expression of islet brain (IB)-1/JNK interacting protein (JIP)-1, a JNK scaffold protein with antiapoptotic action. We examined whether variations in IB1/JIP-1 expression in purified primary beta-cells affect their susceptibility to cytokine-induced apoptosis. Exposure to IL-1beta for 24 h decreased cellular IB1/JIP-1 content by 66 +/- 17%; this IL-1beta effect was maintained in the presence of TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma, which did not influence IB1/JIP-1 levels by themselves. Addition of IL-1beta to TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma increased apoptosis from 20 +/- 2% to 59 +/- 5%. A similar increase in TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma-induced apoptosis was produced by adenoviral expression of antisense IB1/JIP-1 and was not further enhanced by addition of IL-1beta, indicating that IL-1beta-mediated suppression of IB1/JIP-1 in beta-cells increases their susceptibility to cytokine-induced apoptosis. However, adenovirally mediated overexpression of IB1/JIP-1 also potentiated TNF-alpha + IFN-gamma-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the antiapoptotic effect of IB1/JIP-1 depends on well-defined cellular levels. We conclude that the IB1/JIP-1 level in beta-cells can control their susceptibility to apoptosis independent of JNK signaling.