Minutes comprise > 50 phenotypically similar mutations scattered throughout the genome of Drosophila, many of which are identified as mutations in ribosomal protein (rp) genes. Common traits of the Minute phenotype are short and thin bristles, slow development, and recessive lethality. By mobilizing a P element inserted in the 5' UTR of M(3)95A, the gene encoding ribosomal protein S3 (RPS3), we have generated two homozygous viable heteroalleles that are partial revertants with respect to the Minute phenotype. Molecular characterization revealed both alleles to be imprecise excisions, leaving 40 and 110 bp, respectively, at the P-element insertion site. The weaker allele (40 bp insert) is associated with a approximately 15% decrease in RPS3 mRNA abundance and displays a moderate Minute phenotype. In the stronger allele (110 bp insert) RPS3 mRNA levels are reduced by approximately 60%, resulting in an extreme Minute phenotype that includes many morphological abnormalities as well as sterility in both males and females due to disruption of early gametogenesis. The results show that there is a correlation between reduced RPS3 mRNA levels and the severity of the Minute phenotype, in which faulty differentiation of somatic tissues and arrest of gametogenesis represent the extreme case. That heteroalleles in M(3)95A can mimic the phenotypic variations that exist between different Minute/rp-gene mutations strongly suggests that all phenotypes primarily are caused by reductions in maximum protein synthesis rates, but that the sensitivity for reduced levels of the individual rp-gene products is different.