Phytase (PHY) improves growth performance, nutrient digestibility and bone structure in pigs; however, little is known about its effects on intestinal nutrient transporter gene expression. In the present study, a 44 d experiment was carried out using forty-eight pigs (11·76 (sem 0·75) kg) assigned to one of three dietary treatment groups to measure growth performance, coefficient of apparent ileal digestibility (CAID), coefficient of apparent total tract nutrient digestibility (CATTD) and intestinal nutrient transporter gene expression. Dietary treatments during the experimental period were as follows: (1) a high-P (HP) diet containing 3·4 g/kg available P and 7·0 g/kg Ca; (2) a low-P (LP) diet containing 1·9 g/kg available P and 5·9 g/kg Ca; (3) a PHY diet containing LP diet ingredients+1000 phytase units (FTU)/kg of PHY. The PHY diet increased the average daily gain (P< 0·05) and final body weight (P< 0·01) and decreased the feed conversion ratio (P< 0·05) compared with the LP diet. Pigs fed the PHY diet had a higher CAID of gross energy compared with those fed the HP and LP diets (P< 0·001). Pigs fed the PHY diet had increased CAID of P (P< 0·01) and CATTD of Ca and P (P< 0·001) compared with those fed the LP diet. The PHY diet increased the gene expression of the peptide transporter 1 (PEPT1/SLC15A1) (P< 0·05) in the ileum compared with the LP diet. The LP diet decreased the gene expression of the sodium–glucose-linked transporter 1 (SGLT1/SLC5A1) and GLUT2/SLC2A2 (P< 0·05) and increased the expression of membrane Ca channel (TRPV6) and calbindin compared with the HP diet (P< 0·001). In conclusion, feeding a diet supplemented with PHY improves growth performance and nutrient digestibility as well as increases the gene expression of the peptide transporter PEPT1.