Objective To study the effect of microRNA-21 (miR-21) on hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R)-treated primary hepatocytes from C57BL/6J mice and analyze its possible molecular mechanism. Methods The H/R model of primary hepatocytes was established and the expression of miR-21 was detected by the quantitative real-time PCR. Western blotting was used to detect protein expression levels of phosphatase and tension homology deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN), phosphorylated AKT (p-AKT), Bcl-2 and Bax. Flow cytometry was performed to observe the hepatocyte apoptosis. Results The expression of miR-21 in primary hepatocytes decreased after H/R injury. After transfected with exogenous miR-21 mimics, the expression of PTEN decreased, while the expressions of p-AKT and Bcl-2 and the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax increased in hepatocytes; the apoptotic level of hepatocytes was downregulated. The inhibition of AKT phosphorylation could downregulate the expression of Bcl-2 and the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax, and upregulate the level of hepatocyte apoptosis. Conclusion The miR-21 can alleviate the hepatocyte apoptosis by inhibiting the PTEN/PI3K/AKT signaling pathway in the process of H/R.