Recently, we reported that bacterial incorporation induces cellular transdifferentiation of human fibroblasts. However, the bacterium-intrinsic cellular- transdifferentiation factor remained unknown. Here, we found that cellular transdifferentiation is caused by ribosomes. Ribosomes, isolated from both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, induce the formation of embryoid body-like cell clusters. Numerous ribosomes are incorporated into both the cytoplasm and nucleus through trypsin-activated endocytosis, which leads to cell-cluster formation. Although ribosome-induced cell clusters (RICs) express several stemness markers and differentiate into derivatives of all three germ layers in heterogeneous cell populations, RICs fail to proliferate, alter the methylation states of pluripotent genes, or contribute to teratoma or chimera formation. However, RICs express markers of epithelial-mesenchymal transition without altering the cell cycle, despite their proliferation obstruction. These findings demonstrate that incorporation of ribosomes into host cells induces cell transdifferentiation and alters cellular plasticity.
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