IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha are major proinflammatory cytokines implicated in islet beta-cell destruction, which results in type-1 diabetes; however, the underlying mechanism is not clear. Using pancreatic beta-cell line MIN6N8 cells, co-treatment with TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma, but neither cytokine alone, synergistically induced apoptosis, correlated with the activation of the JNK/SAPK, which resulted in the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS) and loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (delta psi m). Additionally, cells transfected with wild-type JNK1 became more susceptible to apoptosis induced by TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma through ROS production and loss of delta psi m, while cascading apoptotic events were prevented in dominant-negative JNK1-transfected or JNK inhibitor SP600125-treated cells. As the antioxidant, N-acetyl-cysteine, failed to completely suppress apoptosis induced by TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma, an additional pathway was considered to be involved. The level of p53 was significantly increased through synergistic activation of JNK by TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma. Furthermore, the synergistic effect of TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma on apoptosis and ROS production was further potentiated by the overexpression of wild-type p53, but not with mutant p53. This synergistic activation of JNK/SAPK by TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma was also induced in insulin-expressing pancreatic islet cells, and increased ROS production and p53 level, which was significantly inhibited by SP600125. Collectively, these data demonstrate that TNF-alpha/IFN-gamma synergistically activates JNK/SAPK, playing an important role in promoting apoptosis of pancreatic beta-cell via activation of p53 pathway together with ROS.