The tracheal system of Drosophila melanogaster has proven to be an excellent model system for studying the development of branched tubular organs. Mechanisms regulating the patterning and initial maturation of the tracheal system have been largely worked out, yet important questions remain regarding how the mature tubes inflate with air at the end of embryogenesis, and how the tracheal system grows in response to the oxygen needs of a developing larva that increases nearly 1000-fold in volume over a four day period. Here we describe the cloning and characterization of uninflatable (uif), a gene that encodes a large transmembrane protein containing carbohydrate binding and cell signaling motifs in its extracellular domain. Uif is highly conserved in insect species, but does not appear to have a true ortholog in vertebrate species. uif is expressed zygotically beginning in stage 5 embryos, and Uif protein localizes to the apical plasma membrane in all ectodermally derived epithelia, most notably in the tracheal system. uif mutant animals show defects in tracheal inflation at the end of embryogenesis, and die primarily as larvae. Tracheal tubes in mutant larvae are often crushed or twisted, although tracheal patterning and maturation appear normal during embryogenesis. uif mutant larvae also show defects in tracheal growth and molting of their tracheal cuticle.