Spherical high density lipoproteins (HDL) predominate in human plasma. However, little information exists on the structure of the most common HDL protein, apolipoprotein (apo) A-I, in spheres vs. better studied discoidal forms. We produced spherical HDL by incubating reconstituted discoidal HDL with physiological plasma-remodeling enzymes and compared apoA-I structure in discs and spheres of comparable diameter (79-80 and 93-96 A). Using cross-linking chemistry and mass spectrometry, we determined that the general structural organization of apoA-I was overall similar between discs and spheres, regardless of diameter. This was the case despite the fact that the 93 A spheres contained three molecules of apoA-I per particle compared with only two in the discs. Thus, apoA-I adopts a consistent general structural framework in HDL particles-irrespective of shape, size and the number of apoA-Is present. Furthermore, a similar cross-linking pattern was demonstrated in HDL particles isolated from human serum. We propose the first experiment-based molecular model of apoA-I in spherical HDL particles. This model provides a new foundation for understanding how apoA-I structure modulates HDL function and metabolism.