The microRNA miR-451 is downregulated in gliomas, this has been suggested by several different research groups and is consistent with our data. Our previous study also confirmed that miR-451 has a repressive role in glioma by inhibiting cell growth, proliferation and by inducing cell apoptosis. In the present study, we identified a target gene of miR-451 in human glioma and investigated the mechanism for the glioma suppressive effect of miR-451 functions. Expression of miR-451 in gliomas was identified by quantitative real-time PCR and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Human glioma cell lines (U251, U87, LN229 and A172) were transfected with miR-451 mimics to restore miR-451 expression. The tumor suppressive effects of miR-451 were further verified by subcutaneous assays in nude mice, in addition to our previous in vitro data. A candidate target gene was tested by Western blotting and luciferase reporter assays. Some PI3K/AKT pathway factors were tested by Western blotting. We found that miR-451 expression was downregulated in glioma samples and was inversely correlated with WHO grades of gliomas. In vivo assays confirmed that miR-451 had tumor suppressive traits. CAB39-3'UTR luciferase reporter assay confirmed CAB39 as a direct target gene of miR-451. Significant alterations in the expression of PI3K/AKT pathway factors were observed by Western blot assays. We conclude that miR-451 represses glioma in vitro and in vivo, likely through targeting CAB39 directly and inhibiting the PI3K/AKT pathway indirectly.