Ectopic expression of the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4 in fibroblasts generates induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Little is known about the nature and sequence of molecular events accompanying nuclear reprogramming. Using doxycycline-inducible vectors, we have shown that exogenous factors are required for about 10 days, after which cells enter a self-sustaining pluripotent state. We have identified markers that define cell populations prior to and during this transition period. While downregulation of Thy1 and subsequent upregulation of SSEA-1 occur at early time points, reactivation of endogenous Oct4, Sox2, telomerase, and the silent X chromosome mark late events in the reprogramming process. Cell sorting with these markers allows for a significant enrichment of cells with the potential to become iPS cells. Our results suggest that factor-induced reprogramming is a gradual process with defined intermediate cell populations that contain the majority of cells poised to become iPS cells.