This study was conducted to investigate the effects of dietary isoleucine (Ile) on the immune response, antioxidant status, tight junctions, and microbial population in the intestine of juvenile Jian carp (Cyprinus carpio var. Jian). A total of 1200 juvenile jian carp with average initial weight 6.9 +/- 0.03 g were fed semi-purified isonitrogenous diets containing 4.2 (unsupplemented control group), 7.0, 9.5, 11.9, 13.9 and 16.9 g Ile kg(-1) diet for 60 days. Results indicated that Ile supplementation decreased malondialdehyde (MDA) and protein carbonyl content, and the amounts of Escherichia coli and Aeromonas in the intestine (P < 0.05), and increased the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione reductase (GR), glutathione content and the amounts of Lactobacillus and Bacillus in the intestine (P < 0.05). Furthermore, real time polymerase chain reaction revealed that relative mRNA expression of copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu-ZnSOD), manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), CAT, NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (p38MAPK) in the intestine were increased with increasing of dietary Ile up to a certain point (P < 0.05). Conversely, the relative mRNA expression of occludin, claudin-3, daudin-7, TNF-alpha, IL-10, Kelch-like-ECH- associated protein 1 (Keap1), extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) in the intestine showed a downward trend (P < 0.05). In conclusion, dietary Ile improves intestinal immune function, antioxidant capacity and microbial population, and regulates gene expression of antioxidant enzyme, tight junctions, Nrf2, Keap1, p38 and ERK1 in the intestine of Jian carp. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.