Although atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used extensively to characterize cell membrane structure and cellular processes such as endocytosis and exocytosis, the corrugated surface of the cell membrane hinders the visualization of extracellular entities, such as liposomes, that may interact with the cell. To overcome this barrier, we used 90 nm nanogold particles to label FITC liposomes and monitor their endocytosis on human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAECs) in vitro. We were able to study the internalization process of gold-coupled liposomes on endothelial cells, by using AFM. We found that the gold-liposomes attached to the HCAEC cell membrane during the first 15-30 min of incubation, liposome cell internalization occurred from 30 to 60 min, and most of the gold-labeled liposomes had invaginated after 2 hr of incubation. Liposomal uptake took place most commonly at the periphery of the nuclear zone. Dynasore monohydrate, an inhibitor of endocytosis, obstructed the internalization of the gold-liposomes. This study showed the versatility of the AFM technique, combined with fluorescent microscopy, for investigating liposome uptake by endothelial cells. The 90 nm colloidal gold nanoparticles proved to be a noninvasive contrast agent that efficiently improves AFM imaging during the investigation of biological nanoprocesses.