Chronic hyperlipidemia causes β-cell apoptosis and dysfunction, thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Thus, searching for agents to promote pancreatic β-cell survival and improve its function could be a promising strategy to prevent and treat T2D. We investigated the effects of kaempferol, a small molecule isolated from ginkgo biloba, on apoptosis and function of β-cells and further determined the mechanism underlying its actions. Kaempferol treatment promoted viability, inhibited apoptosis and reduced caspase-3 activity in INS-1E cells and human islets chronically exposed to palmitate. In addition, kaempferol prevented the lipotoxicity-induced down-regulation of antiapoptotic proteins Akt and Bcl-2. The cytoprotective effects of kaempferol were associated with improved insulin secretion, synthesis, and pancreatic and duodenal homeobox-1 (PDX-1) expression. Chronic hyperlipidemia significantly diminished cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) production, protein kinase A (PKA) activation, cAMP-responsive element binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation and its regulated transcriptional activity in β-cells, all of which were restored by kaempferol treatment. Disruption of CREB expression by transfection of CREB siRNA in INS-1E cells or adenoviral transfer of dominant-negative forms of CREB in human islets ablated kaempferol protection of β-cell apoptosis and dysfunction caused by palmitate. Incubation of INS-1E cells or human islets with kaempferol for 48h induced PDX-1 expression. This effect of kaempferol on PDX-1 expression was not shared by a host of structurally related flavonoid compounds. PDX-1 gene knockdown reduced kaempferol-stimulated cAMP generation and CREB activation in INS-1E cells. These findings demonstrate that kaempferol is a novel survivor factor for pancreatic β-cells via up-regulating the PDX-1/cAMP/PKA/CREB signaling cascade.