To investigate the effects of the centrosomal protein, ninein-like protein (Nlp), on the proliferation, invasion and metastasis of MCF-7 breast cancer cells, the present study established green fluorescent protein (GFP)-containing MCF7 plasmids with steady and overexpression of Nlp (MCG7-GFP-N1p) and blank plasmids (MCF7-GFP) using lentiviral transfection technology in MCF7 the breast cancer cell line. The expression of Nlp was determined by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction and western blott analysis. Differences in levels of proliferation, invasion and metastasis between the MCF7-GFP-Nlp group and MCF-GFP group were compared using MTT, plate colony formation and Transwell migration assays. The cell growth was more rapid and the colony forming rate was markedly increased in the MCF7-GFP-Nlp group (P<0.05) compared with the MCF7-GFP group. The number of cells in the MCF-GFP-Nlp and MCF7-GFP groups transferred across membranes were 878 ± 18.22 and 398 ± 8.02, respectively, in the migration assay. The invasive capacity was significantly increased in the MCF7-GFP-Nlp group (P<0.05) compared with the MCF7-GFP group. The western blotting results demonstrated high expression levels of C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 in the MCF7-GFP-Nlp group. The increased expression of Nlp was associated with an increase in MCF7 cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis, which indicated that Nlp promoted breast tumorigenesis and may be used as a potent biological index to predict breast cancer metastasis and develop therapeutic regimes.