The present invention provides genetically modified strains of microorganisms that display enhanced tolerance to stress and/or inhibitors such as sodium acetate and vanillin. The enhanced tolerance can be achieved by increasing the expression of a protein of the Sm-like superfamily such as a bacterial Hfq protein and a fungal Sm or Lsm protein. Further, the present invention provides methods of producing alcohol from biomass materials by using the genetically modified microorganisms of the present invention.
 This invention was made with government support under Contract Number DE-AC05-00OR22725 between the United States Department of Energy and UT-Battelle, LLC. The U.S. Government has certain rights in this invention.