Oncogenic transcription factors are known to mediate the conversion of somatic cells to tumour or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Here we report c-Jun as a barrier for iPSC formation. c-Jun is expressed by and required for the proliferation of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), but not mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). Consistently, c-Jun is induced during mESC differentiation, drives mESCs towards the endoderm lineage and completely blocks the generation of iPSCs from MEFs. Mechanistically, c-Jun activates mesenchymal-related genes, broadly suppresses the pluripotent ones, and derails the obligatory mesenchymal to epithelial transition during reprogramming. Furthermore, inhibition of c-Jun by shRNA, dominant-negative c-Jun or Jdp2 enhances reprogramming and replaces Oct4 among the Yamanaka factors. Finally, Jdp2 anchors 5 non-Yamanaka factors (Id1, Jhdm1b, Lrh1, Sall4 and Glis1) to reprogram MEFs into iPSCs. Our studies reveal c-Jun as a guardian of somatic cell fate and its suppression opens the gate to pluripotency.