Autophagy is an intracellular process that plays an important role in protecting eukaryotic cells and maintaining intracellular homeostasis. Pathogens, including bacteria and viruses, that enter cells can signal induction of selective autophagy resulting in degradation of the pathogen in the autolysosome. Under such circumstances, the specific recognition and targeting of the invading pathogen becomes a crucial step for the subsequent initiation of selective autophagosome formation. However, the nature of the signal(s) on he pathogen surface and the identity of host molecule(s) that presumably bind the signal molecules remain relatively poorly characterized. In this review we summarise the available evidence regarding the specific recognition of invading pathogens by which they are targeted into host autophagy pathways.