Adipokines, the bioactive factors derived mainly from adipocytes, regulate pancreatic beta-cell function including insulin secretion, gene expression and apoptosis. In this review, we propose that adipokines influence beta-cell function through three interdependent pathways. The first is through regulating lipid and glucose metabolism in beta-cells. The second implicates the change of ion channel opening and closing in beta-cells. The third pathway is via the modification of insulin sensitivity of beta-cells. The endocrine function of adipocytes is dynamic, and the secretion of various adipokines changes under different metabolic conditions. During the progression from the normal state to obesity and to type 2 diabetes, adipokines contribute to the occurrence and development of beta-cell dysfunction in type 2 diabetes.