The stress-activated protein kinase c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) is a central signal for interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta)-induced apoptosis in insulin-producing beta-cells. The cell-permeable peptide inhibitor of JNK (JNKI1), that introduces the JNK binding domain (JBD) of the scaffold protein islet-brain 1 (IB1) inside cells, effectively prevents beta-cell death caused by this cytokine. To define the molecular targets of JNK involved in cytokine-induced beta-cell apoptosis we investigated whether JNKI1 or stable expression of JBD affected the expression of selected pro- and anti-apoptotic genes induced in rat (RIN-5AH-T2B) and mouse (betaTC3) insulinoma cells exposed to IL-1beta. Inhibition of JNK significantly reduced phosphorylation of the specific JNK substrate c-Jun (p<0.05), IL-1beta-induced apoptosis (p<0.001), and IL-1beta-mediated c-fos gene expression. However, neither JNKI1 nor JBD did influence IL-1beta-induced NO synthesis or iNOS expression or the transcription of the genes encoding mitochondrial manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione-S-transferase rho (GSTrho), heat shock protein (HSP) 70, IL-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE), caspase-3, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL. We suggest that the anti-apoptotic effect of JNK inhibition by JBD is independent of the transcription of major pro- and anti-apoptotic genes, but may be exerted at the translational or posttranslational level.