The present study investigated the influence of bacterial metabolites on monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1) expression in pigs using in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro approaches. Piglets (n 24) were fed high-protein (26 %) or low- protein (18 %) diets with or without fermentable carbohydrates. Colonic digesta samples were analysed for a broad range of bacterial metabolites. The expression of MCT1, TNF-α, interferon γ (IFN-γ) and IL-8 was determined in colonic tissue. The expression of MCT1 was lower and of TNF-α and IL-8 was higher with high-protein diets (P< 0·05). MCT1 expression was positively correlated with l-lactate, whereas negatively correlated with NH3 and putrescine (P< 0·05). The expression of IL-8 and TNF-α was negatively correlated with l-lactate and positively correlated with NH3 and putrescine, whereas the expression of IFN-γ was positively correlated with histamine and 4-ethylphenol (P< 0·05). Subsequently, porcine colonic tissue and Caco-2 cells were incubated with Na-butyrate, NH4Cl or TNF-α as selected bacterial metabolites or mediators of inflammation. Colonic MCT1 expression was higher after incubation with Na-butyrate (P< 0·05) and lower after incubation with NH4Cl or TNF-α (P< 0·05). Incubation of Caco-2 cells with increasing concentrations of these metabolites confirmed the up-regulation of MCT1 expression by Na-butyrate (linear, P< 0·05) and down-regulation by TNF-α and NH4Cl (linear, P< 0·05). The high-protein diet decreased the expression of MCT1 in the colon of pigs, which appears to be linked to NH3- and TNF-α-mediated signalling.