Mutations in human Gli-similar (GLIS) 3 protein cause neonatal diabetes. The GLIS3 gene region has also been identified as a susceptibility risk locus for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. GLIS3 plays a role in the generation of pancreatic beta cells and in insulin gene expression, but there is no information on the role of this gene on beta cell viability and/or susceptibility to immune- and metabolic-induced stress. GLIS3 knockdown (KD) in INS-1E cells, primary FACS-purified rat beta cells, and human islet cells decreased expression of MafA, Ins2, and Glut2 and inhibited glucose oxidation and insulin secretion, confirming the role of this transcription factor for the beta cell differentiated phenotype. GLIS3 KD increased beta cell apoptosis basally and sensitized the cells to death induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin 1β + interferon-γ) or palmitate, agents that may contribute to beta cell loss in respectively type 1 and 2 diabetes. The increased cell death was due to activation of the intrinsic (mitochondrial) pathway of apoptosis, as indicated by cytochrome c release to the cytosol, Bax translocation to the mitochondria and activation of caspases 9 and 3. Analysis of the pathways implicated in beta cell apoptosis following GLIS3 KD indicated modulation of alternative splicing of the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein Bim, favouring expression of the pro-death variant BimS via inhibition of the splicing factor SRp55. KD of Bim abrogated the pro-apoptotic effect of GLIS3 loss of function alone or in combination with cytokines or palmitate. The present data suggest that altered expression of the candidate gene GLIS3 may contribute to both type 1 and 2 type diabetes by favouring beta cell apoptosis. This is mediated by alternative splicing of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim and exacerbated formation of the most pro-apoptotic variant BimS.