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The estrous cycle of mono-ovulatory species such as cows or humans, is known to show two or more waves of follicular growth and decline between two successive ovulations. Within each wave, there is one dominant follicle escorted by subordinate follicles of varying number. Under the surge of the luteinizing hormone a growing dominant follicle ovulates. Rarely the number of ovulating follicles exceeds one. In the biological literature, the change of hormonal concentrations and individually varying numbers of follicular receptors are made responsible for the selection of exactly one dominant follicle, yet a clear cause has not been identified. In this paper, we suggest a synergistic explanation based on competition, formulated by a parsimoniously defined system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that quantifies the time evolution of multiple follicles and their competitive interaction during one wave. Not discriminating between follicles, growth and decline are given by fixed rates. Competition is introduced via a growth-suppressing term, equally supported by all follicles. We prove that the number of dominant follicles is determined exclusively by the ratio of follicular growth and competition. This number turns out to be independent of the number of subordinate follicles. The asymptotic behavior of the corresponding dynamical system is investigated rigorously, where we demonstrate that the omega-limit set only contains fixed points. When also including follicular decline, our ODEs perfectly resemble ultrasound data of bovine follicles. Implications for the involved but not explicitly modeled hormones are discussed.

Mathematical models for bioregulatory networks can be based on different formalisms, depending on the quality of available data and the research question to be answered. Discrete boolean models can be constructed based on qualitative data, which are frequently available. On the other hand, continuous models in terms of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) can incorporate time-series data and give more detailed insight into the dynamics of the underlying system. A few years ago, a method based on multivariate polynomial interpolation and Hill functions has been developed for an automatic conversion of boolean models to systems of ordinary differential equations. This method is frequently used by modellers in systems biology today, but there are only a few results available about the conservation of mathematical structures and properties across the formalisms. Here, we consider subsets of the phase space where some components stay fixed, called trap spaces, and demonstrate how boolean trap spaces can be linked to invariant sets in the continuous state space. This knowledge is of practical relevance since finding trap spaces in the boolean setting, which is relatively easy, allows for the construction of reduced ODE models.

The reproductive cycle of mono-ovulatory species such as cows or humans is known to show two or more waves of follicular growth and decline between two successive ovulations. Within each wave, there is one dominant follicle escorted by subordinate follicles of varying number. Under the surge of the luteinizing hormone a growing dominant follicle ovulates. Rarely the number of ovulating follicles exceeds one. In the biological literature, the change of hormonal concentrations and individually varying numbers of follicular receptors are made responsible for the selection of exactly one dominant follicle, yet a clear cause has not been identified. In this paper, we suggest a synergistic explanation based on competition, formulated by a parsimoniously defined system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that quantifies the time evolution of multiple follicles and their competitive interaction during one wave. Not discriminating between follicles, growth and decline are given by fixed rates. Competition is introduced via a growth-suppressing term, equally supported by all follicles. We prove that the number of dominant follicles is determined exclusively by the ratio of follicular growth and competition. This number turns out to be independent of the number of subordinate follicles. The asymptotic behavior of the corresponding dynamical system is investigated rigorously, where we demonstrate that the ω-limit set only contains fixed points. When also including follicular decline, our ODEs perfectly resemble ultrasound data of bovine follicles. Implications for the involved but not explicitly modeled hormones are discussed.