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This study aimed to evaluate the effect of different starch types on liver nutrient metabolism of finishing pigs. In all ninety barrows were randomly allocated to three diets with five replicates of six pigs, containing purified waxy maize starch (WMS), non-waxy maize starch (NMS) and pea starch (PS) (the amylose to amylopectin ratios were 0·07, 0·19 and 0·28, respectively). After 28 d of treatments, two per pen (close to the average body weight of the pen) were weighed individually, slaughtered and liver samples were collected. Compared with the WMS diet, the PS diet decreased the activities of glycogen phosphorylase, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase and the expression of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase 1 in liver (P<0·05). Moreover, the lipid contents, the concentrations of acetyl-CoA carboxylase, fatty acid synthetase and the expression of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c in liver of PS and NMS diets were lower than those of WMS diet (P<0·05). However, no effect was observed in the activity of hepatic lipase, the expressions of carbohydrate-responsive element-binding protein, liver X receptor and PPARα (P>0·05). Compared with the WMS diet, the PS diet reduced the expressions of glutamate dehydrogenase and carbamoyl phosphate synthetase 1 in liver (P<0·05). PS diet decreased the expression of the insulin receptor, and increased the expressions of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 and ribosomal protein S6 kinase β-1 in liver compared with the WMS diet (P<0·05). These findings indicated that the diet with higher amylose content could down-regulate gluconeogenesis, and cause less fat deposition and more protein deposition by affecting the insulin/PI3K/protein kinase B signalling pathway in liver of finishing pigs.