Numerous engineered and natural systems form through reinforcement and stabilization of a deformed configuration that was generated by a transient force. An important class of such structures arises during gametogenesis, when a dividing cell undergoes incomplete cytokinesis, giving rise to daughter cells that remain connected through a stabilized intercellular bridge (ICB). ICBs can form through arrest of the contractile cytokinetic furrow and its subsequent stabilization. Despite knowledge of the molecular components, the mechanics underlying robust ICB assembly and the interplay between ring contractility and stiffening are poorly understood. Here, we report joint experimental and theoretical work that explores the physics underlying robust ICB assembly. We develop a continuum mechanics model that reveals the minimal requirements for the formation of stable ICBs, and validate the model's equilibrium predictions through a tabletop experimental analog. With insight into the equilibrium states, we turn to the dynamics: we demonstrate that contractility and stiffening are in dynamic competition and that the time intervals of their action must overlap to ensure assembly of ICBs of biologically observed proportions. Our results highlight a mechanism in which deformation and remodeling are tightly coordinated—one that is applicable to several mechanics-based applications and is a common theme in biological systems spanning several length scales.
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