Cells communicate with their environment through several kinds of cell surface receptor. One of the most important families of cell adhesion receptors are the integrins, which include receptors that mediate cell-cell as well as cell-extracellular matrix interactions. A distinctive feature of integrins is their variable adhesive competence that is reversibly modified depending on the state of cell differentiation and/or activation or in response to environmental signals. The acquisition of adhesive function by integrins may be a consequence of conformational changes in these receptors that result in an increased ligand binding affinity. In addition, cells can control integrin-mediated adhesion through other mechanisms, including receptor clustering and association to cytoskeleton, phenomena that regulate the avidity of integrins for ligand molecules without altering their monovalent affinity. These phenomena have collectively been designated as 'post-receptor occupancy events'. These two interesting aspects of the regulation of integrin function are reviewed.