Abstract Recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae TMB3001, harboring the Pichia stipitis genes XYL1 and XYL2 (xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase, respectively) and the endogenous XKS1(xylulokinase), can convert xylose to ethanol. About 30% of the consumed xylose, however, is excreted as xylitol. Enhanced ethanol yield has previously been achieved by disrupting the ZWF1 gene, encoding glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, but at the expense of the xylose consumption. This is probably the result of reduced NADPH-mediated xylose reduction. In the present study, we increased the xylose reductase (XR) activity 4–19 times in both TMB3001 and the ZWF1-disrupted strain TMB3255. The xylose consumption rate increased by 70% in TMB3001 under oxygen-limited conditions. In the ZWF1-disrupted background, the increase in XR activity fully restored the xylose consumption rate. Maximal specific growth rates on glucose were lower in the ZWF1-disrupted strains, and the increased XR activity also negatively affected the growth rate in these strains. Addition of methionine resulted in 70% and 50% enhanced maximal specific growth rates for TMB3255 ( zwf1Δ) and TMB3261 ( PGK1-XYL1, zwf1Δ), respectively. Enhanced XR activity did not have any negative effect on the maximal specific growth rate in the control strain. Enhanced glycerol yields were observed in the high-XR-activity strains. These are suggested to result from the observed reductase activity of the purified XR for dihydroxyacetone phosphate.