Methods for numerical description and subsequent classification of cellular protein localization patterns are described. Images representing the localization patterns of 4 proteins and DNA were obtained using fluorescence microscopy and divided into distinct training and test sets. The images were processed to remove out-of-focus and background fluorescence and 2 sets of numeric features were generated: Zernike moments and Haralick texture features. These feature sets were used as inputs to either a classification tree or a neural network. Classifier performance (the average percent of each type of image correctly classified) on previously unseen images ranged from 63% for a classification tree using Zernike moments to 88% for a backpropagation neural network using a combination of features from the 2 feature sets. These results demonstrate the feasibility of applying pattern recognition methods to subcellular localization patterns, enabling sets of previously unseen images from a single class to be classified with an expected accuracy greater than 99%. This will provide not only a new automated way to describe proteins, based on localization rather than sequence, but also has potential application in the automation of microscope functions and in the field of gene discovery.