By labelling with gold-colloid-conjugated wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), the WGA-binding sites were identified in the apical region of certain mitochondria-rich (MR) cells in gills of freshwater-adapted tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Bromo-deoxyuridine (BrdU) injection was used to discern the differentiation of the WGA binding sites during development of MR cells. Double labeling of gill sections of fish 2, 4, 6, and 8 days after a single BrdU injection showed that the BrdU labeled MR cells 2 and 4 days after injection were mostly WGA negative, whereas 6 and 8 days after injection, WGA and BrdU-labeled MR cell increased gradually in number. Furthermore, the ratio of the WGA-positive to total MR-cells was higher in gills of tilapia adapted to low calcium ([Ca] = 0.015 mm) freshwater than in hard freshwater ([Ca] = 1.898 mm). The results indicate that WGA binding site may be a marker expressed late during differentiation of MR cells, and physiologically functional in assisting uptake of calcium when environmental calcium is low. According to their WGA binding and also characteristics their likely function in calcium absorption, the WGA positive MR cells shown in this study are considered to be similar to the β cells described by Pisam et al. (1995).