Beginning with the framework that has been developed for the assembly of the 30 S ribosomal subunit, we have identified a series of RNAs that are minimal binding sites for proteins S15, S6, S18, and S11 in the central domain from Thermus thermophilus. The minimal binding RNA for proteins S15, S6, and S18 consists of helix 22 and three-way junctions at both ends composed of portions of helices 20, 21, and 23. Addition of the remaining portion of helix 23 to this construct results in the minimal site for S11. Surprisingly, almost half of the central domain (helices 24, 25, and 26) is dispensable for binding the central domain proteins. Thus, at least two classes of RNA elements can be identified in ribosomal RNA. A protein-binding core element (such as helices 20, 21, 22, and 23) is required for the association of ribosomal proteins, whereas secondary binding elements (such as helices 24, 25, and 26) associate only with the preformed core RNP complex. Apparently, there may be a hierarchy of ribosomal RNA elements similar to the hierarchy of primary, secondary, and tertiary binding ribosomal proteins.