Maternal haploinsufficiency for a third chromosome Minute, M(3)i55, lowers rates of protein synthesis by approximately 30% during the syncytial nuclear cycles of early embryogenesis. The maternal effect of Mi55 also produces segmentation defects (denticle belt fusions) in the posterior abdomen of larvae. Furthermore, embryos from Minute mothers show abnormal expression patterns of the segmentation gene fushi tarazu (ftz) at the cellular blastoderm stage of embryogenesis. We developed a computer-aided analysis to describe the deviations in ftz expression which demonstrates that abnormally narrow ftz stripes occur in segment primordia that become fused in the larva. Unexpectedly, an abnormally wide ftz stripe occurs in segment primordia which do not develop abnormally. In addition, Mi55 produces a general narrowing of all ftz- interstripes. We phenocopied the Minute mutation by injecting wild-type embryos with cycloheximide concentrations which decreased protein synthesis rates to levels comparable with those of Minute embryos. Thus, a general decrease in protein synthesis during early embryogenesis leads to abnormal determination of posterior abdominal segment primordia.