Cell Syst. 2021 Jun 16;12(6):608-621. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2021.05.010.
Single-cell image analysis provides a powerful approach for studying cell-to-cell heterogeneity, which is an important attribute of isogenic cell populations, from microbial cultures to individual cells in multicellular organisms. This phenotypic variability must be explained at a mechanistic level if biologists are to fully understand cellular function and address the genotype-to-phenotype relationship. Variability in single-cell phenotypes is obscured by bulk readouts or averaging of phenotypes from individual cells in a sample; thus, single-cell image analysis enables a higher resolution view of cellular function. Here, we consider examples of both small- and large-scale studies carried out with isogenic cell populations assessed by fluorescence microscopy, and we illustrate the advantages, challenges, and the promise of quantitative single-cell image analysis.