A number of studies have indicated that Nurr1, which belongs to a novel class of orphan nuclear receptors (the NR4A family), is important for carcinogenesis. Here we investigated expression of Nurr1 protein in benign and malignant human prostate tissues and association with clinicopathologic features using immunohistochemical techniques. Moreover, we also investigated the ability of Nurr1 to influence proliferation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of human prostate cancer cells using small interfering RNA silencing. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the expression of Nurr1 protein was higher in prostate cancer tissues than in benign prostate tissue (P < 0.001), levels being positively correlated with tumor T classification (P = 0.003), N classification (P = 0.017), M classification (P = 0.011) and the Gleason score (P = 0.020) of prostate cancer patients. In vitro, silencing of endogenous Nurr1 attenuated cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and induced apoptosis of prostate cancer cells. These results suggest that Nurr1 may be used as an indicator for prostate cancer progression and be useful for novel potential therapeutic strategies.