Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is an essential event in the initiation and progression of liver fibrosis. MicroRNAs have been shown to play a pivotal role in regulating HSC functions such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. Recently, miR-181b has been reported to promote HSCs proliferation by targeting p27. But whether alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) or collagens could be promoted by miR-181b in activated HSCs is still not clear. Therefore, the understanding of the role of miR-181b in liver fibrosis remains limited. Our results showed that miR-181b expression was increased much higher than miR-181a expression in vitro in transforming growth factor-β1-induced HSC activation as well as in vivo in carbon tetrachloride-induced rat liver fibrosis. Of note, overexpression of miR-181b significantly increased the expressions level of α-SMA and type I collagen, and further promoted HSCs proliferation. Furthermore, phosphatase and tensin homologs deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN), a negative regulator of PI3K/Akt pathway, were confirmed as a direct target of miR-181b. We demonstrated that miR-181b could suppress PTEN expression and increase Akt phosphorylation in HSCs. Interestingly, the effects of miR-181b on the activation of HSCs were blocked down by Akt inhibitor LY294002. Our results revealed a profibrotic role of miR-181b in HSC activation and demonstrated that miR-181b could activate HSCs, at least in part, via PTEN/Akt pathway.