MicroRNAs have been shown to play an important role in normal hematopoisis and leukemogenesis. Here, we report function and mechanisms of miR-181 family in myeloid differentiation and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The aberrant overexpression of all the miR-181 family members (miR-181a/b/c/d) was detected in French-American-British M1, M2 and M3 subtypes of adult AML patients. By conducting gain- and loss-of-function experiments, we demonstrated that miR-181a inhibits granulocytic and macrophage-like differentiation of HL-60 cells and CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) by directly targeting and downregulating the expression of PRKCD (which then affected the PRKCD-P38-C/EBPα pathway), CTDSPL (which then affected the phosphorylation of retinoblastoma protein) and CAMKK1. The three genes were also demonstrated to be the targets of miR-181b, miR-181c and miR-181d, respectively. Significantly decreases in the expression levels of the target proteins were detected in AML patients. Inhibition of the expression of miR-181 family members owing to Lenti-miRZip-181a infection in bone marrow blasts of AML patients increased target protein expression levels and partially reversed myeloid differentiation blockage. In the mice implanted with AML CD34+ HSPCs, expression inhibition of the miR-181 family by Lenti-miRZip-181a injection improved myeloid differentiation, inhibited engraftment and infiltration of the leukemic CD34+ cells into the bone marrow and spleen, and released leukemic symptoms. In conclusion, our findings revealed new mechanism of miR-181 family in normal hematopoiesis and AML development, and suggested that expression inhibition of the miR-181 family could provide a new strategy for AML therapy.