CD44 is closely linked to breast cancer progression; however, the regulatory functions of microRNAs (miRs) in breast cancer have yet to be fully elucidated. In order to investigate the regulation of CD44 by miRs in breast cancer, the present study isolated CD44+ and CD44- breast cancer cells by flow cytometry, revealing that CD44+ cells were enriched in transplanted compared with those in primary breast cancers, and that their proliferation and stem-cell sphere formation ability were enhanced. A miRNA array assay indicated that miR-143 expression in CD44+ breast cancer cells was lower than that in CD44- cells. Furthermore, miR-143 was decreased in breast cancer tissues and cell lines compared with that in normal tissues and cells. Restoration of miR-143 expression in CD44+ breast cancer cells inhibited their proliferation and sphere formation. A luciferase reporter assay demonstrated that miR-143 directly tartgeted the 3'-untranslated region of CD44. In addition, miR-143 inhibited metastasis-associated features in breast cancer and reduced tumor growth in a mouse model of breast cancer. In conclusion, the results of the present study demonstrated that miR-143 inhibited the progression and stem-cell properties of breast cancer cells by targeting CD44.