Nuclear shape and size are emerging as mechanistic regulators of genome function. Yet, the coupling between chromatin assembly and various nuclear and cytoplasmic scaffolds is poorly understood. The present work explores the structural organization of a prestressed nucleus in a variety of cellular systems ranging from cells in culture to those in an organism. A combination of laser ablation and cellular perturbations was used to decipher the dynamic nature of the nucleo-cytoplasmic contacts. In primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts, ablation of heterochromatin nodes caused an anisotropic shrinkage of the nucleus. Depolymerization of actin and microtubules, and inhibition of myosin motors, resulted in the differential stresses that these cytoplasmic systems exert on the nucleus. The onset of nuclear prestress was then mapped in two contexts--first, in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells, where signatures of prestress appeared with differentiation; second, at an organism level, where nuclear or cytoplasmic laser ablations of cells in the early Drosophila embryo induced a collapse of the nucleus only after cellularization. We thus show that the interplay of physical connections bridging the nucleus with the cytoplasm governs the size and shape of a prestressed eukaryotic nucleus.