To investigate the effects of maternal dietary protein restriction on offspring Fe metabolism, twenty-four second-parity Landrace×Yorkshire sows were randomly allocated to standard-protein (SP) and low-protein (LP) groups. The SP sows were fed diets containing 15 and 18 % crude protein throughout pregnancy and lactation, respectively, whereas the LP sows were subjected to 50 % dietary protein restriction. Offspring birth weight was not affected, but the body weight at weaning (P=0·06) and average daily gain (P=0·01) of the female piglets were significantly decreased. Serum Fe level in the LP piglets was markedly decreased at weaning, especially in males (P=0·03). Serum ferritin level (P=0·08) tended to be lower, yet serum transferrin was greatly higher (P=0·01) in male weaning piglets of the LP group. Duodenal expression of the divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) and ferroportin (FPN) was surprisingly reduced (P<0·05) at the level of protein, but not at the mRNA level, in male weaning piglets of the LP group. Male weaning piglets born to the LP sows exhibited higher hepatic hepcidin levels (P=0·09), lower hepatic expression of transferrin (P<0·01) and transferrin receptor 1 (P<0·05) at the level of mRNA. However, no significant differences were observed for hepatic Fe storage, ferritin, transferrin and transferrin receptor 1 protein expression in male weaning piglets of the two groups. These results indicate that maternal protein restriction during pregnancy and lactation influences growth of female offspring at weaning, reduces duodenal expression of Fe transporters (DMT1 and FPN) and decreases serum Fe level in male weaning piglets.