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Integrins are transmembrane receptors composed of α and β subunits. Although most integrins contain β1, canonical activation mechanisms are based on studies of the platelet integrin, αIIbβ3. Its inactive conformation is characterized by the association of the αIIb transmembrane and cytosolic domain (TM/CT) with a tilted β3 TM/CT that leads to activation when disrupted. We show significant structural differences between β1 and β3 TM/CT in bicelles. Moreover, the 'snorkeling' lysine at the TM/CT interface of β subunits, previously proposed to regulate αIIbβ3 activation by ion pairing with nearby lipids, plays opposite roles in β1 and β3 integrin function and in neither case is responsible for TM tilt. A range of affinities from almost no interaction to the relatively high avidity that characterizes αIIbβ3 is seen between various α subunits and β1 TM/CTs. The αIIbβ3-based canonical model for the roles of the TM/CT in integrin activation and function clearly does not extend to all mammalian integrins.