BACKGROUND: The receptor for the cardiac hormone atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPRA), is expressed in cancer cells, and natriuretic peptides have been implicated in cancers. However, the direct role of NPRA signaling in prostate cancer remains unclear. RESULTS: NPRA expression was examined by western blotting, RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. NPRA was downregulated by transfection of siRNA, shRNA and NPRA inhibitor (iNPRA). Antitumor efficacy of iNPRA was tested in mice using a TRAMP-C1 xenograft. Here, we demonstrated that NPRA is abundantly expressed on tumorigenic mouse and human prostate cells, but not in nontumorigenic prostate epithelial cells. NPRA expression showed positive correlation with clinical staging in a human PCa tissue microarray. Down-regulation of NPRA by siNPRA or iNPRA induced apoptosis in PCa cells. The mechanism of iNPRA-induced anti-PCa effects was linked to NPRA-induced expression of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), a proinflammatory cytokine over-expressed in PCa and significantly reduced by siNPRA. Prostate tumor cells implanted in mice deficient in atrial natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPRA-KO) failed to grow, and treatment of TRAMP-C1 xenografts with iNPRA reduced tumor burden and MIF expression. Using the TRAMP spontaneous PCa model, we found that NPRA expression correlated with MIF expression during PCa progression. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these results suggest that NPRA promotes PCa development in part by regulating MIF. Our findings also suggest that NPRA is a potential prognostic marker and a target for PCa therapy.