Progesterone is a physiological agonist for mammalian sperm, modulating its flagellar movement and facilitating the acrosome reaction. To study the initial action of progesterone, we developed a caged analog with a photosensitive group: nitrophenylethanediol, at position 20. Using this compound combined with stroboscopic illumination, we performed Ca(2)(+) imaging of human spermatozoa and analyzed the effects of progesterone on the intracellular Ca(2)(+) concentration ([Ca(2)(+)](i)) of beating flagella for the first time. We observed a transient [Ca(2)(+)](i) increase in the head and the flagellum upon photolysis of the caged progesterone and an increase in flagellar curvature. Detailed kinetic analysis revealed that progesterone elicits an increase in the [Ca(2)(+)](i) immediately in the flagellum (mid-piece and principal piece), thereafter in the head with a short time lag. This observation is different from the progesterone-induced Ca(2)(+) mobilization in mouse spermatozoa, where the Ca(2)(+) rise initiates at the base of the sperm head. Our finding is mostly consistent with the recent discovery that progesterone activates CatSper channels in human spermatozoa, but not in mouse spermatozoa.