During mineral growth in rat bone-marrow stromal cell cultures, gallium follows calcium pathways. The dominant phase of the cell culture mineral constitutes the poorly crystalline hydroxyapatite (HAP). This model system mimics bone mineralization in vivo. The structural characterization of the Ga environment was performed by X-ray absorption spectroscopy at the Ga K-edge. These data were compared with Ga-doped synthetic compounds (poorly crystalline hydroxyapatite, amorphous calcium phosphate and brushite) and with strontium-treated bone tissue, obtained from the same culture model. It was found that Sr(2+) substitutes for Ca(2+) in the HAP crystal lattice. In contrast, the replacement by Ga(3+) yielded a much more disordered local environment of the probe atom in all investigated cell culture samples. The coordination of Ga ions in the cell culture minerals was similar to that of Ga(3+), substituted for Ca(2+), in the Ga-doped synthetic brushite (Ga-DCPD). The Ga atoms in the Ga-DCPD were coordinated by four oxygen atoms (1.90 A) of the four phosphate groups and two oxygen atoms at 2.02 A. Interestingly, the local environment of Ga in the cell culture minerals was not dependent on the onset of Ga treatment, the Ga concentration in the medium or the age of the mineral. Thus, it was concluded that Ga ions were incorporated into the precursor phase to the HAP mineral. Substitution for Ca(2+ )with Ga(3+) distorted locally this brushite-like environment, which prevented the transformation of the initially deposited phase into the poorly crystalline HAP.