Oxidative stress is produced under diabetic conditions and is likely involved in progression of pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction found in diabetes. Possibly caused by low levels of antioxidant enzyme expressions, pancreatic beta-cells are vulnerable to oxidative stress. When beta-cell-derived HIT-T15 cells or isolated rat islets were exposed to oxidative stress, insulin gene expression was markedly decreased. To investigate the significance of oxidative stress in the progression of pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction in type 2 diabetes, we evaluated the effects of antioxidants in diabetic C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice. According to an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test, the treatment with antioxidants retained glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and moderately decreased blood glucose levels. Histological analyses of the pancreata revealed that the beta-cell mass was significantly larger in the mice treated with the antioxidants, and the antioxidant treatment suppressed apoptosis in beta-cells without changing the rate of beta-cell proliferation. The antioxidant treatment also preserved the amounts of insulin content and insulin mRNA, making the extent of insulin degranulation less evident. As possible mechanism underlying the phenomena, expression of pancreatic and duodenal homeobox factor-1 (also known as IDX-1/STF-1/IPF1), an important transcription factor for the insulin gene, was more clearly visible in the nuclei of islet cells after the antioxidant treatment. Under diabetic conditions, JNK is activated by oxidative stress and involved in the suppression of insulin gene expression. This JNK effect appears to be mediated in part by nucleocytoplasmic translocation of PDX-1, which is also downstream of JNK activation. Taken together, oxidative stress and consequent activation of the JNK pathway are involved in progression of beta-cell dysfunction found in diabetes. Antioxidants may serve as a novel mechanism-based therapy for type 2 diabetes.