Understanding how the integrins on leukocytes operate is important because these receptors control the activity of leukocytes in all phases of their lives. Thus integrins control leukocyte development and maturation in bone marrow, the circulation of naive cells in secondary lymphoid tissue, e.g. the lymph nodes, and leukocyte responses to inflammatory signals emanating from injured tissues. Using as an example LFA-1, which is expressed by all leukocytes, we outline how the activity of this integrin is modified to meet the challenges posed by these leukocyte activities. Briefly, we discuss three means by which LFA-1 is adapted to bind more efficiently to its chief ligand, ICAM-1. LFA-1 can undergo changes in conformation leading to increased affinity, can be clustered on the membrane and, finally, when activated can move into the lipid raft compartment of the membrane. The study of humans with the beta2 deficiency syndrome termed leukocyte adhesion deficiency (LAD)-1 and analysis of LFA-1 null mice has given further insight into integrin activation mechanisms and the in vivo roles of LFA-1 and other leukocyte integrins.