Delivery of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) into live cells has high potentials, ranging from molecular-specific imaging, photodiagnostics, to photothermal therapy. However, studying the long-term dynamics of cells with GNPs using conventional fluorescence techniques suffers from phototoxicity and photobleaching. Here, we present a method for 3-D imaging of GNPs inside live cells exploiting refractive index (RI) as imaging contrast. Employing optical diffraction tomography, 3-D RI tomograms of live cells with GNPs are precisely measured for an extended period with sub-micrometer resolution. The locations and contents of GNPs in live cells are precisely addressed and quantified due to their distinctly high RI values, which was validated by confocal fluorescence imaging of fluorescent dye conjugated GNPs. In addition, we perform quantitative imaging analysis including the segmentations of GNPs in the cytosol, the volume distributions of aggregated GNPs, and the temporal evolution of GNPs contents in HeLa and 4T1 cells. (C) 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.