The increasing incidence of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) has attracted many researchers to investigate the mechanism underlying PTC progression. This study explored the growth and apoptosis of PTC cells based on an lncRNA regulatory mechanism. The expression of nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase antisense RNA 1 (NNT-AS1) in PTC cell lines and PTC tissues was analyzed by qRT-PCR. The mutual binding site between NNT-AS1 and miR-199a-5p was predicted by starBase and confirmed by dual-luciferase reporter assay. The correlation between NNT-AS1 and miR-199a-5p was shown by Pearson correlation test. The viability, clone formation, migration, invasion and apoptosis of TPC-1 and IHH-4 cells were examined by CCK-8, colony formation, wound-healing, transwell, and flow cytometry assays, respectively. The expressions of Bax, cleaved Caspase-3, Bcl-2, E-Cadherin, N-Cadherin and SNAIL in TPC-1 and IHH-4 cells were determined by Western blot or qRT-PCR. NNT-AS1 expression was upregulated in PTC cells and tissues. In TPC-1 cells, silencing NNT-AS1 inhibited viability, clone formation, migration, and invasion as well as the expressions of N-Cadherin, SNAIL and Bcl-2, but promoted the expressions of E-Cadherin, Bax, and cleaved caspase-3. The effects of NNT-AS1 overexpression on IHH-4 cells were opposite to those of silencing NNT-AS1. In PTC tissues, miR-199a-5p was low-expressed and targeted by NNT-AS1, and it was negatively correlated with NNT-AS1. MiR-199a-5p inhibitor promoted TPC-1 cell progression, but miR-199a-5p mimic inhibited IHH-4 cell progression. NNT-AS1 and miR-199a-5p exerted opposite effects on PTC cells. Silencing NNT-AS1 inhibited PTC cell proliferation, migration and invasion, but promoted apoptosis via upregulation of miR-199a-5p.