Calicheamicin-conjugated humanized anti-CD33 mouse monoclonal antibody, CMA-676, has recently been introduced to clinics as a promising drug to treat patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in relapse. However, the mechanism of action of CMA-676 has not been well elucidated. The cytotoxic effect of CMA-676 on HL60, NOMO-1, NB4, NKM-1, K562, Daudi, and the multidrug-resistant sublines, NOMO-1/ADR and NB4/MDR, was investigated by cell cycle distribution and morphology. These studies were done by a video-microscopic system, DNA fragmentation, dye exclusion and 3H-thymidine uptake after analysis of CD33, CD34, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), multidrug resistance (MDR)-associated protein and lung-related protein on these cells. A dose-dependent, selective cytotoxic effect of CMA-676 was observed in cell lines that expressed CD33, and was dependent on the amount of CD33 and the proliferative speed of the cells. Sensitive cells were temporally arrested at the G2/M phase before undergoing morphological changes. CMA-676 is not effective on P-gp-expressing multidrug-resistant sublines compared with parental cell lines. MDR modifiers, MS209 and PSC833, restored the cytotoxic effect of CMA-676 in P-gp-expressing sublines. CMA-676 is a promising agent in the treatment of patients with AML that expresses CD33. The combined use of CMA-676 and MDR modifiers may increase the selective cytotoxic effect in multidrug-resistant AML.