Dedifferentiation signifies the capacity of somatic cells to acquire stem cell-like properties. This process characterizes the transition of differentiated plant cells to protoplasts (plant cells devoid of cell walls), a transition accompanied by widespread chromatin decondensation. Transcriptome profiling of dedifferentiating cells revealed striking similarities with senescing cells; both display a large increase in the expression of genes of specific transcription factor (TF) families including ANAC, WRKY, bZIP and C2H2. Further analysis showed that leaves induced to senesce by exposure to dark display characteristic features of dedifferentiating cells including widespread chromatin decondensation, disruption of the nucleolus and condensation of rRNA genes. Considering that premature senescence can be induced by various stress conditions, our results suggest that the response of plant cells to certain stresses converges on cellular dedifferentiation whereby cells first acquire stem cell-like state prior to acquisition of a new cell fate (e.g., reentry into the cell cycle, or death).