Lymphocyte function is regulated by complex signalling responses to diverse extracellular inputs, and a cell will often receive multiple, conflicting signals at one time. The mechanisms by which a lymphocyte integrates these signals into a single cellular response are not well understood. An important factor in the integration of signals likely involves the regulation of access of signalling molecules to cell surface receptors and of receptor signals to morphological determinants within the cell. Recent studies have led to important advances in our understanding of both the mechanisms by which signals are compartmentalized in T cells and the physiological role played by such compartmentalization. We review progress in the field, with a particular focus on membrane microdomains or lipid rafts and on cell polarity.