To investigate the P absorption and gene expression levels of related co-transporters, type IIb sodium-dependent phosphate co-transporter (NaPi-IIb), inorganic phosphate transporter 1 (PiT-1) and inorganic phosphate transporter 2 (PiT-2) in the small intestine of broilers, 450 1-d-old Arbor Acres male broilers were randomly allocated to one of three treatments with ten replicate cages of fifteen birds per cage for each treatment in a completely randomised design. Chickens were fed a diet with no added inorganic P (containing 0·06 % non-phytate P (NPP)) or with either 0·21 or 0·44 % NPP for 21 d. Plasma P concentration in the hepatic portal vein, mRNA and protein expression levels of NaPi-IIb, PiT-1 and PiT-2 were determined at 7, 14 and 21 d of age. The results showed that the concentration of P in plasma in the hepatic portal vein increased as dietary NPP increased (P<0·0001). At 14 and 21 d of age, the increase in dietary NPP inhibited (P<0·003) NaPi-IIb mRNA expression level in the duodenum, as well as PiT-1 mRNA and protein expression levels in the ileum, but promoted NaPi-IIb protein expression level (P<0·002) and PiT-2 mRNA and protein expression levels (P<0·04) in the duodenum. These results suggest that NaPi-IIb, PiT-1 and PiT-2 might be important P transporters in the small intestine of broilers. Higher intestinal P absorption may be achieved by up-regulating the protein expression levels of NaPi-IIb and PiT-2 and down-regulating the protein expression of PiT-1.