Background The apoptosis of nucleus pulposus (NP) cells reduces the number of nucleus pulposus cells in intervertebral disc tissue, resulting in intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play an important regulatory role in abnormal cell proliferation and apoptosis. Methods The miR-27a-3p expressions in degenerative NP tissue and cells were measured via qPCR. The impacts of miR-27a-3p on the proliferation and apoptosis of human NP cells were evaluated by flow cytometry assays, MTT assays, and western blot analyses. In addition, target scan and luciferase reporter assay were applied to confirm that RASSF5 was directly binding to miR-27a-3p. Western blot was applied to assess the relationship between miR-27a-3p, RASSF5 and MST1/LATS1, and RAS/RAC1 signaling pathway. Results MiR-27a-3p was downregulated in degenerative NP tissues and cells by comparison with the control group. MiR-27a-3p overexpression enhanced cell proliferation and suppressed apoptosis of NP cells, while the above factors showed an opposite tendency after in the miR-27a-3p inhibitor group. The western blot experiment similarly suggested mir-27a-3p apparently downregulated apoptosis-related proteins (Bax and caspase-3) and upregulated antiapoptotic proteins (Bcl-2). In addition, RASSF5 was confirmed to be directly regulated by miR-27a-3p using the luciferase reporter assay. Overexpressed RASSF5 could reverse the effects caused by miR-27a-3p mimic. Finally, miR-27a-3p could downregulate RASSF5 and affected the MST1/LATS1 and RAS/RAC1 pathway. Conclusion MiR-27a-3p may target RASSF5 and enhance cell proliferation and imped cell apoptosis of the nucleus pulposus cells via the MST1/LATS1 and RAS/RAC1 pathway, lessening the degeneration of intervertebral discs.