Embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent and characterized by open chromatin and high transcription levels, achieved through auto-regulatory and feed-forward transcription factor loops1,2. ES-cell identity is maintained by a core of factors including Oct4 (also known as Pou5f1), Sox2, Klf4, c-Myc (OSKM) and Nanog2,3,4, and forced expression of the OSKM factors can reprogram somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) resembling ES cells5,6. These gene-specific factors for RNA-polymerase-II-mediated transcription recruit transcriptional cofactors and chromatin regulators that control access to and activity of the basal transcription machinery on gene promoters7,8. How the basal transcription machinery is involved in setting and maintaining the pluripotent state is unclear. Here we show that knockdown of the transcription factor IID (TFIID) complex affects the pluripotent circuitry in mouse ES cells and inhibits reprogramming of fibroblasts. TFIID subunits and the OSKM factors form a feed-forward loop to induce and maintain a stable transcription state. Notably, transient expression of TFIID subunits greatly enhanced reprogramming. These results show that TFIID is critical for transcription-factor-mediated reprogramming. We anticipate that, by creating plasticity in gene expression programs, transcription complexes such as TFIID assist reprogramming into different cellular states.