The surface of spiroplasmas, helically shaped pathogenic bacteria related to the mycoplasmas, is crowded with the membrane-anchored lipoprotein spiralin whose structure and function are unknown. In this work, the secondary structure of spiralin under the form of detergent-free micelles (average Stokes radius, 87.5 A) in water and at the air/water interface, alone or in interaction with lipid monolayers was analyzed. FT-IR and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopic data indicate that spiralin in solution contains about 25+/-3% of helices and 38+/-2% of beta sheets. These measurements are consistent with a consensus predictive analysis of the protein sequence suggesting about 28% of helices, 32% of beta sheets and 40% of irregular structure. Brewster angle microscopy (BAM) revealed that, in water, the micelles slowly disaggregate to form a stable and homogeneous layer at the air/water interface, exhibiting a surface pressure up to 10 mN/m. Polarization modulation infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy (PMIRRAS) spectra of interfacial spiralin display a complex amide I band characteristic of a mixture of beta sheets and alpha helices, and an intense amide II band. Spectral simulations indicate a flat orientation for the beta sheets and a vertical orientation for the alpha helices with respect to the interface. The combination of tensiometric and PMIRRAS measurements show that, when spiroplasma lipids are used to form a monolayer at the air/water interface, spiralin is adsorbed under this monolayer and its antiparallel beta sheets are mainly parallel to the polar-head layer of the lipids without deep perturbation of the fatty acid chains organization. Based upon these results, we propose a 'carpet model' for spiralin organization at the spiroplasma cell surface. In this model, spiralin molecules anchored into the outer leaflet of the lipid bilayer by their N-terminal lipid moiety are composed of two colinear domains (instead of a single globular domain) situated at the lipid/water interface. Owing to the very high amount of spiralin in the membrane, such carpets would cover most if not all the lipids present in the outer leaflet of the bilayer.