microRNA-29b (miR-29b) is known to be associated with TGF-β-mediated fibrosis, but the mechanistic action of miR-29b in liver fibrosis remains unclear and is warranted for investigation. We found that miR-29b was significantly downregulated in human and mice fibrotic liver tissues and in primary activated HSCs. miR-29b downregulation was directly mediated by Smad3 through binding to the promoter of miR-29b in hepatic stellate cell (HSC) line LX1, whilst miR-29b could in turn suppress Smad3 expression. miR-29b transduction in the liver of mice prevented CCl4 induced-fibrogenesis, concomitant with decreased expression of α-SMA, collagen I and TIMP-1. Ectopic expression of miR-29b in activated HSCs (LX-1, HSC-T6) inhibited cell viability and colony formation, and caused cell cycle arrest in G1 phase by downregulating cyclin D1 and p21cip1. Further, miR-29b induced apoptosis in HSCs mediated by caspase-9 and PARP. miR-29b inhibited its downstream effectors of PIK3R1 and AKT3 through direct targeting their 3'UTR regions. Moreover, knockdown of PIK3R1 or AKT3 suppressed α-SMA and collagen I and induced apoptosis in both HSCs and in mice. In conclusion, miR-29b prevents liver fibrogenesis by inhibiting HSC activation and inducing HSC apoptosis through inhibiting PI3K/AKT pathway. These results provide novel mechanistic insights for the anti-fibrotic effect of miR-29b.