Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the correlation between m6A methylation regulators and cell infiltration characteristics in tumor immune microenvironment (TIME), so as to help understand the immune mechanism of early-stage lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD).

Methods: The expression and consensus cluster analyses of m6A methylation regulators in early-stage LUAD were performed. The clinicopathological features, immune cell infiltration, survival and functional enrichment in different subtypes were analyzed. We also constructed a prognostic model. Clinical tissue samples were used to validate the expression of model genes through real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). In addition, cell scratch assay and Transwell assay were also performed.

Results: Expression of m6A methylation regulators was abnormal in early-stage LUAD. According to the consensus clustering of m6A methylation regulators, patients with early-stage LUAD were divided into two subtypes. Two subtypes showed different infiltration levels of immune cell and survival time. A prognostic model consisting of HNRNPC, IGF2BP1 and IGF2BP3 could be used to predict the survival of early-stage LUAD. RT-PCR results showed that HNRNPC, IGF2BP1 and IGF2BP3 were significantly up-regulated in early-stage LUAD tissues. The results of cell scratch assay and Transwell assay showed that overexpression of HNRNPC promotes the migration and invasion of NCI-H1299 cells, while knockdown HNRNPC inhibits the migration and invasion of NCI-H1299 cells.

Conclusions: This work reveals that m6A methylation regulators may be potential biomarkers for prognosis in patients with early-stage LUAD. Our prognostic model may be of great value in predicting the prognosis of early-stage LUAD.