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Bispecific T-cell engagers (BiTEs) are very effective in recruiting and activating T cells. We tested the cytotoxicity of the CD33/CD3 BiTE antibody construct AMG 330 on primary acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells ex vivo and characterized parameters contributing to antileukemic cytolytic activity. The E:T ratio and the CD33 expression level significantly influenced lysis kinetics in long-term cultures of primary AML cells (n = 38). AMG 330 induced T-cell-mediated proinflammatory conditions, favoring the upregulation of immune checkpoints on target and effector cells. Although not constitutively expressed at the time of primary diagnosis (n = 123), PD-L1 was strongly upregulated on primary AML cells upon AMG 330 addition to ex vivo cultures (n = 27, P < 0.0001). This phenomenon was cytokine-driven as the sole addition of interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor-α also induced expression. Through blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction, AMG 330-mediated lysis (n = 9, P = 0.03), T-cell proliferation (n = 9, P = 0.01) and IFN-γ secretion (n = 8, P = 0.008) were significantly enhanced. The combinatorial approach was most beneficial in settings of protracted AML cell lysis. Taken together, we have characterized a critical resistance mechanism employed by primary AML cells under AMG 330-mediated proinflammatory conditions. Our results support the evaluation of checkpoint molecules in upcoming clinical trials with AMG 330 to enhance BiTE antibody construct-mediated cytotoxicity.