The dietary contents of crude protein and free amino acids (AA) may affect the protein digestion and AA absorption in pigs. Trypsin and chymotrypsin activities, AA serum concentrations and expression of AA transporters in the small intestine of pigs fed a low protein, AA-supplemented (19.2%, LPAA) or a high protein (28.1%, HP), wheat-soybean meal diet were measured in two 14-d trials. The LPAA diet contained free L-Lys, L-Thr, DL-Met, L-Leu, L-Ile, L-Val, L-His, L-Trp and L-Phe. All pigs were fed the same amount of feed (890 and 800 g/d for trial 1 and 2 respectively). In trial 1, samples of mucosa (duodenum, jejunum and ileum) and digesta (duodenum and jejunum) were collected from 14 pigs (17.2 ± 0.4 kg); in trial 2, blood samples were collected from 12 pigs (12.7 ± 0.3 kg). The trypsin and chymotrypsin activities in both intestinal segments were higher in pigs fed the HP diet (p < 0.01). Trypsin activity was higher in jejunum than in duodenum regardless the dietary treatment (p < 0.05). Pigs fed the LPAA diet expressed more b0,+ AT in duodenum, B0 AT1 in ileum (p < 0.05), and tended to express more y+ LAT1 in duodenum (p = 0.10). In pigs fed the LPAA diet, the expression of b0,+ AT was higher in duodenum than in jejunum and ileum (p < 0.01), but no difference was observed in pigs fed the HP diet. Ileum had the lowest b0,+ AT expression regardless the diet. The serum concentrations of Lys, Thr and Met were higher in LPAA pigs while serum Arg was higher in HP pigs (p < 0.05). Serum concentrations of AA appear to reflect the AA absorption. In conclusion, these data indicate that the dietary protein contents affect the extent of protein digestion and that supplemental free AA may influence the intestinal site of AA release and absorption, which may impact their availability for growth of young pigs. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition © 2016 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.