The formation of branched epithelial networks is fundamental to the development of many organs, such as the lung, the kidney or the vasculature. Little is known about the mechanisms that control cell rearrangements during tubulogenesis and regulate the size of individual tubes. Recent studies indicate that whereas the basal surface of tube cells interacts with the surrounding tissues and helps to shape the ramification pattern of tubular organs, the apical surface has an important role in the regulation of tube diameter and tube growth. Here we report that two proteins, Piopio (Pio) and Dumpy (Dp), containing a zona pellucida (ZP) domain are essential for the generation of the interconnected tracheal network in Drosophila melanogaster. Pio is secreted apically, accumulates in the tracheal lumen and possibly interacts with Dp through the ZP domains. In the absence of Pio and Dp, multicellular tubes do not rearrange through cell elongation and cell intercalation to form narrow tubes with autocellular junctions; instead they are transformed into multicellular cysts, which leads to a severe disruption of the branched pattern. We propose that an extracellular matrix containing Pio and Dp provides a structural network in the luminal space, around which cell rearrangements can take place in an ordered fashion without losing interconnections. Our results suggest that a similar structural role might be attributed to other ZP-domain proteins in the formation of different branched organs.