Background Progesterone triggers resumption of the first meiotic division in the Rana pipiens oocyte by binding to the N-terminal external loop of the catalytic subunit of Na/K-ATPase, releasing a cascade of lipid second messengers. This is followed by internalization of specific membrane proteins, plasma membrane depolarization and nuclear membrane breakdown, culminating in arrest at second metaphase. Results Progesterone initiates an increase in phosphoryl potential during the first meiotic division, resulting in the accumulation of high energy protein phosphate by second metaphase arrest. 31P-NMR, with saturation transfer, demonstrates that the phosphocreatine level rises ~2 fold and that the "pseudo" first order rate constant for the creatine kinase reaction falls to ~20% of the control by the onset of nuclear membrane breakdown. 32PO4 pulse-labeling reveals a net increase in phosphorylation of yolk protein phosvitin during this period. The increased yolk protein phosphorylation coincides with internalization of membrane Na/K-ATPase and membrane depolarizatio Conclusions These results indicate that progesterone binding to the catalytic subunit of the Na-pump diverts ATP from cation regulation at the plasma membrane to storage of high energy phosphate in yolk protein. Phosvitin serves as a major energy source during fertilization and early cleavage stages and is also a storage site for cations (e.g. Na+, K+, Ca2+, Fe2+/3+) essential for embryonic development.