Berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid extracted from the dry root of Coptidis Rhizoma, has been found to exhibit marked anticancer effects on a panel of established cancer cells. Among the human osteosarcoma lines treated, MG‑63 cells were found to be the most sensitive. The present study investigated the potential genotoxic effect of berberine on MG‑63 human osteosarcoma cells. The effect of berberine on cell viability was determined using a 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5‑diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay and cell apoptosis was analyzed by flow cytometry and a DNA ladder assay. γH2AX focus formation was used to detect DNA damage in MG-63 cells. Berberine induced a significant increase in apoptosis in MG-63 cells in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, as determined by DNA fragmentation analysis and flow cytometry. Furthermore, berberine induced significant concentration- and time-dependent increases in DNA damage compared with that in the negative control. In conclusion, these observations indicated that berberine induced apoptosis and DNA damage in MG‑63 cells.