The prostate gland mainly contains basal and luminal cells constructed as a pseudostratified epithelium. Annotation of prostate epithelial transcriptomes provides a foundation for discoveries that can impact disease understanding and treatment. Here we describe a genome-wide transcriptome analysis of human benign prostatic basal and luminal epithelial populations using deep RNA sequencing. Through molecular and biological characterizations, we show that the differential gene-expression profiles account for their distinct functional properties. Strikingly, basal cells preferentially express gene categories associated with stem cells, neurogenesis and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) biogenesis. Consistent with this profile, basal cells functionally exhibit intrinsic stem-like and neurogenic properties with enhanced rRNA transcription activity. Of clinical relevance, the basal cell gene-expression profile is enriched in advanced, anaplastic, castration-resistant and metastatic prostate cancers. Therefore, we link the cell-type-specific gene signatures to aggressive subtypes of prostate cancer and identify gene signatures associated with adverse clinical features.