Chronic hyperglycemia causes a progressive decrease of β-cell function and mass in type 2 diabetic patients. Growing evidence suggests that augment of autophagy may be an effective approach to protect βcells against various extra-/intracellular stimuli. In this study, we thus investigated whether bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) could ameliorate chronic high glucose (HG)-induced β-cell injury through modulation of autophagy. Prolonged exposure to HG decreased cell viability, increased cell apoptosis and impaired basal insulin secretion and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion of INS-1 cells, but BM-MSC treatment significantly alleviated these glucotoxic alternations. In addition, western blotting displayed upregulated expression of Beclin1 and LC3-II in INS-1 cells co-cultured with BM-MSCs. Results from immunofluorescence staining and transmission electronic microscope analysis also revealed that BM-MSCs promoted autophagosomes and autolysosomes formation in HG-treated INS-1 cells. However, it should be noted that inhibition of autophagy significantly diminished the protective effects of BM-MSCs on HG-treated INS-1 cells, suggesting that the improvement of β-cell function and survival induced by BM-MSCs was mediated through autophagy. Furthermore, our results showed that BM-MSCs improved mitochondrial function and reduced reactive oxygen species production in HG-treated INS-1 cells, largely owing to autophagic clearance of impaired mitochondria. In vivo study was performed in rats with type 2 diabetes (T2D). BM-MSC infusion not only ameliorated hyperglycemia, but also promoted restoration of pancreatic β cells in T2D rats. Meanwhile, BM-MSC infusion upregulated LAMP2 expression and enhanced formation of autophagosomes and autolysosomes, combined with reduced β-cell apoptosis and increased number of insulin granules. These findings together indicated that BM-MSCs could protect β cells against chronic HG-induced injury through modulation of autophagy in vitro and in vivo. This study unveiled novel evidence of BM-MSCs as an ideal strategy to enhance autophagy for treatment of T2D mellitus.