Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress contributes to pancreatic beta-cell apoptosis in diabetes, but the factors involved are still not fully elucidated. Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) is a stress response gene and has been reported to be increased and play an important role in various diseases. However, the role of GDF15 in beta cells in the context of ER stress and diabetes is still unclear. In this study, we have discovered that GDF15 promotes ER stress-induced beta-cell apoptosis and that downregulation of GDF15 has beneficial effects on beta-cell survival in diabetes. Specifically, we found that GDF15 is induced by ER stress in beta cells and human islets, and that the transcription factor C/EBPβ is involved in this process. Interestingly, ER stress-induced apoptosis was significantly reduced in INS-1 cells with Gdf15 knockdown and in isolated Gdf15 knockout mouse islets. In vivo, we found that Gdf15 deletion attenuates streptozotocin-induced diabetes by preserving beta cells and insulin levels. Moreover, deletion of Gdf15 significantly delayed diabetes development in spontaneous ER stress-prone Akita mice. Thus, our findings suggest that GDF15 contributes to ER stress-induced beta-cell apoptosis and that inhibition of GDF15 may represent a novel strategy to promote beta-cell survival and treat diabetes.