Multicellular organisms consist of multiple cell types. The identity of these cells is primarily maintained by cell-type-specific gene expression programs; however, mechanisms that suppress these programs are poorly defined. Here we show that serum response factor (Srf), a transcription factor that is activated by various extracellular stimuli, can repress cell-type-specific genes and promote cellular reprogramming to pluripotency. Manipulations that decrease β-actin monomer quantity result in the nuclear accumulation of Mkl1 and the activation of Srf, which downregulate cell-type-specific genes and alter the epigenetics of regulatory regions and chromatin organization. Mice overexpressing Srf exhibit various pathologies including an ulcerative colitis-like symptom and a metaplasia-like phenotype in the pancreas. Our results demonstrate an unexpected function of Srf via a mechanism by which extracellular stimuli actively destabilize cell identity and suggest Srf involvement in a wide range of diseases.